Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Copying the Comics

Joshua L. Simmons, Columbia Law School, has published Catwoman or the Kingpin: Potential Reasons Comic Book Publishers Do Not Enforce Their Copyrights Against Comic Book Infringers, at 33 Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts 267 (2010). Here is the abstract.

The vast majority of comic book publishers are not enforcing their copyrights against those that infringe by copying and distributing their comic books illegitimately. There are only three significant motivations for a copyright holder to enforce their copyrights against infringers: economic gain, distortion control and metacopyright influence. Comic book publishers have none of those motivations when it comes to their comic books. This conclusion is reached based on a finding that comic book publishers are not primarily in the business of selling comic books. While they do sell comic books, a study of their finances shows that the majority of funds are made through licensing their works for consumer products and derivative entertainment programs. Therefore, it is the illegitimate copying and distribution of these additional products that comic book publishers are incentivized to prevent. In addition, the wholesale copying of comic books runs no risk of distortion.

In discussing the motivations of the comic book publishing industry, this paper also compares their motivations to the motivations of the book and music industries, thereby contrasting the comic book industry to other industries with similar levels of infringement. It clarifies who holds the rights in the comic book industry: the comic book publishers, not the creative talent that generates comic books, hold the copyrights to comic books and comic book characters. Finally, this paper suggests that despite lacking enforcement motivations, comic book publishers should create alternatives to infringement in order to guide infringers back to legitimate uses, and also to profit thereby.


Download the article from SSRN at the link.

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